Some things are meant to go together. Fish and chips. Vodka and coke. B & Q. Other things sounds like they should work together but for whatever reason do not end well. Lampard and Gerrard. Vulnerability and drunkenness. The adding of a pinch of Busted to McFly seemed like a recipe for success, and overall McBusted’s debut studio album carries on the joie-de-vivre of their sold-out arena tour.
There are few surprises here, the album taking shape as an amalgamation of the band’s creative influences. There are short and energetic bursts of pop-punk-for-preteens in the shape of ‘Hate Your Guts’, featuring predictable co-writing and a superfluous cameo from Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus, and ‘Sensitive Guy’, an up-tempo effort with downbeat lyrics that deliver one of the strongest choruses of the album. There is the acoustically driven ballad, ‘Beautiful Girls Are The Loneliest’, which just straddles the line between sweet and sickly. There are the unadulterated pop leanings befitting of a mainstream band in 2014, arriving as the uplifting but safe ‘Get Over It’ and the melancholic anthem ‘Gone’.
Unsurprisingly, there are also mistakes. One does not expect a McBusted album to deal in incisive socio-political commentaries, but, for god’s sake, there is a whole song about hair. That is not the only exercise in juvenility; ‘Riding On My Bike’ opens in a manner evocative of a Year 7 who has been let loose on the keyboards in a music lesson for the first time, with auto-tuned vocals complemented by irritating electronic flourishes. There’s no two ways about it: this is a song about riding a bike. But if Queen can do it, then why not McBusted? The awkward verses are chiefly absolved of their sins by a glorious chorus propelled by Matt Willis’s soaring melodies. Unfortunately, some things are beyond redemption.
“Perhaps McBusted’s self-titled is their way of vamping until they feel comfortable releasing a record that combines the punk chops of Busted with the relative maturity of McFly.”
Where ‘Hate Your Guts’ falls down is in attempting to tackle a universal and relatable theme, but here the clumsy lyricism (“I hate your guts, and I wish I didn’t love you anymore”) struggles to save the song. ‘Back In Time’ tumbles into similar pitfalls, despite a hook that Abu Hamza would be proud of. The song’s heartfelt wishes to travel back in time to find a naughty treacle from a drunken encounter aspires to be a great love story of the Tinder age, but the lyrics flail to a backdrop of tastefully wailing guitars. A more noble intention would be to go back in time and prevent the subsequent track, ‘How’s My Hair?’, from ever seeing the light of day. The album’s least graceful stumble, its grungy meandering and a forgettable chorus combine turgidly. With a bloated outro that is the most disappointing ending since the fourth Indiana Jones movie, ‘How’s My Hair?’ assassinates the album’s momentum by serving as the penultimate track. Unfortunately this weakens the impact of closer ‘Getting It Out’, a brazen alt-rock number unlike anything else served up in the preceding tracks.
Some of the songs certainly feel more like they are catering to the tastes of those that have been raised suckling at the teat of Simon Cowell’s man-boob, a generation that dreams of Harry Styles when they’re in the shower and has been exhilarated by the rise of bands such as The Vamps. Perhaps McBusted’s self-titled is their way of vamping until they feel comfortable releasing a record that combines the punk chops of Busted with the relative maturity of McFly. There are many promising moments which hint at a bright future if McBusted continues.
‘Air Guitar’, the album’s opener and lead single, definitely proved to be more of a slow grower than a “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” kind of song. The stadium rock leanings of the instrumentation and the bizarrely juvenile lyrical matter make unlikely bedfellows, but here they prove to be the one night stand that ends up meaning something. One can already smell the sweat pouring out of packed arenas of youths jamming with their air guitars. The powerful ‘Gone’ is a considered approach to an emotional subject matter, of coming to terms with loss, and its spectacular chorus driven by Danny Jones cements it as an album standout. ‘Before You Knew Me’ does not disappoint in infectiousness either, another rocking exercise in silly but well-written musings about a girl. ‘What Happened To Your Band’is a tour-de-force of pop punk, its effortless harmonisation aiding tender lyricism dealing with Busted’s break-up. The combination of maturity and confident melodies in this song are as good as anything either Busted or McFly constructed independently.
If you can take this album for what it is, then you can take a lot away from it. Sure, the lyrics will make you cringe at times. Sure, it can veer towards uncomfortable levels of poppiness. But neither deficiency cripples the album’s endearing charm. Some will consider this a guilty pleasure, but there is nothing guilty about pleasure.